Liverpool are now the hunters, not the hunted, after their return to the Women’s Super League and the Reds are ready to get their season underway against the reigning champions.
Liverpool Women experienced a turbulent few years after relegation from the top flight, in addition to consistent manager and personnel changes.
But the return of Matt Beard established a new direction, and the goal was simple: return to the WSL by the end of 2021/22.
It was achieved in emphatic fashion, with the Reds not blinking in their pursuit of the top spot in the Championship, ending their two-year absence from the top flight in style.
The landscape has changed for Liverpool Women, though, from the top dogs to the underdogs, but what has changed at the club over the summer as the Reds head into the 2022/23 season?
Return to the topflight
After two seasons in the Championship, the wait to return to the top was over in Beard’s first season back at the club, and it was a commanding run to promotion.
The Reds finished 11 points ahead of next best London City, and they lost just two of their 16 league games and conceded only 11 goals in that time.
They finished the campaign with the best defensive record and as the top goalscorers (49), margins that make Liverpool the most dominant title winners in the history of the competition.
Liverpool found a new star in forward Leanne Kiernan, with 13 goals in 22 games, while the late addition of Katie Stengel inspires confidence in what is to come with eight goals in 12 games.
A team that discovered their identity and it leaves plenty to be excited over.
‘We can beat anyone’
It’s time for Liverpool to become the hunters rather than the hunted, but there is optimism in the air for what is to come, and why shouldn’t there be?
That doesn’t mean the Reds are naive to what lies ahead, but with an exciting team in tow anything is possible and the confidence is there that Liverpool can “beat anyone on our day.”
“We want to be as competitive as we can, the transition from the Championship to the Super League is a big jump, and I think we learnt from Leicester and Aston Villa‘s [promotion] experience over the last two seasons,” manager Beard explained.
“I think we all need to be realistic enough to know that we might not have as much of the ball as we had last year, but I think we have a team that can compete with anyone and, on our day, we can beat anyone.
“The goal is to do as well as we can.”
Realism and confidence rolled into one, just the right attitude for the challenges ahead.
Jade Bailey – Free agent
Meikayla Moore – Glasgow City
Rianna Dean – Crystal Palace
Evie Smith – Blackburn
After consecutive years of mass changes, Liverpool reigned in their summer activity on the outgoing front this time around, with stability always key when making a move up the divisions.
Notably, though, forward Rianna Dean was released just a year after signing for the club and has since landed in the Championship with Crystal Palace.
- Eartha Cumings – Goalkeeper
- Faye Kirby – Goalkeeper
- Emma Koivisto – Defender
- Gilly Flaherty – Defender
- Charlotte Wardlaw (loan) – Defender
- Shanice van de Sanden – Winger
It’s been a positive summer for Beard’s side in preparation for the return to the top flight, with four wins from six friendlies throughout pre-season.
The Reds played four fellow WSL teams, winning two, losing once and drawing once – showcasing the quality they look to bring to the division after two campaigns in the Championship.
Confidence is key and Beard has curated just that throughout the summer, now to take into the season itself and consolidate the club’s place in the WSL.
Chelsea (H) – Championship – Sunday, September 18 – 5pm (BST)
Everton (H) – Championship – Anfield – Sunday, September 25 – 6.45pm
Sunderland (A) – League Cup – Sunday, October 2 – 11.30am
Tottenham (A) – Championship – Sunday, October 16 – 2pm
The Reds’ start to the season at Reading was postponed after the Queen’s death, meaning the Reds will instead kick off their return to the WSL against current champions Chelsea.
It doesn’t get much tougher than that in the 12-team league. That fixture is swiftly followed up with a trip to Anfield to host Everton in a Merseyside derby, in what will be a brilliant showcase of women’s football on Merseyside.
In the WSL, the champions automatically qualify for the group stages of the Champions League, while second and third secure a qualification spot, and there is only one relegation position at the bottom.
Fans can tune into WSL action throughout the season across Sky Sports, BBC and the FA Player.